The Debrief: Chalobah shines on debut amid fine margins in final

Chelsea’s new season started the same way the last one had finished, with European silverware heading back to Stamford Bridge, as we won a penalty shoot-out to defeat Villarreal in the UEFA Super Cup.

Hakim Ziyech had given the Blues a deserved half-time lead with a smart finish from Kai Havertz’s cutback before Gerard Moreno levelled 18 minutes from the end to send the tie into extra-time. It was a final of fine margins and an additional half an hour was unable to separate the two sides, forcing spot-kicks in Belfast.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was introduced specifically for the role of shoot-out specialist and the Spaniard did not shirk the responsibility against his compatriots, saving two penalties as Chelsea triumphed 6-5 to win the trophy for the first time in 23 years.

Alonso’s attacking threat

Of Chelsea’s 20 efforts on goal, Marcos Alonso accounted for a quarter of them. Of our seven shots on target, the wing-back claimed three. As one of five players to have featured for the full two hours of action, the Spaniard looked fit and offered a consistent attacking threat down the left flank.

With Ben Chilwell and Emerson Palmieri both Euro 2020 finalists and thus among the latest arrivals back to Cobham, Alonso has stepped up and reminded everybody of his impact as an attacking force. He spent most of the game in the Villarreal half, probing forward with runs in behind and offering width as the Blues attempted to find the cracks in the yellow wall.

Whether in the air with four aerial duels won, on the grass with 70 touches in the opposition half including 10 in the penalty area, or from set-pieces, Alonso spearheaded much of our forward threat. That included claiming the pre-assist for Ziyech’s goal with a precise pass into space for Havertz to run onto down the inside-left channel.

Dazzling debut

Thomas Tuchel has spoken throughout pre-season about how impressed he has been with 22-year-old Trevoh Chalobah, who started at Windsor Park on the right of our back three.

The England Under-21 international was composed on the ball, offering an attacking outlet as Villarreal sat deep for long periods, and read the game expertly. In fact, no player on the pitch made more than his five interceptions, which came alongside a joint game-high six clearances and two successful tackles.

In possession, the centre-back had more touches of the ball (148) and spent more time in possession (9.4 per cent) than anybody else. His pass completion rate of 95 per cent was bettered only by fellow defender Kurt Zouma, of those who started the match.

All of this came on the Chelsea Academy graduate’s senior debut for the club, following three seasons on loan at Ipswich, Huddersfield and Lorient. While Tuchel has plenty of options in that area of the pitch, Chalobah has certainly put his name in the frame for more game time with such a mature all-round performance.

Shoot-out success

In 47 Super Cup finals, only three have gone the full distance to a penalty shoot-out and Chelsea have remarkably been involved in all of them. Our previous two outings, against Liverpool in 2019 and Bayern Munich in 2013, ended in defeat.

However, Tuchel had a plan to reverse that trend in Belfast, introducing Kepa moments before the end of extra-time. The replacement keeper was animated on his line and appeared stoked up for the battles that followed, ultimately saving from Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol.

Prior to this game, Kepa had a shoot-out save record of 21 per cent, numbers that were cited by Tuchel as the reason behind his decision to replace Edouard Mendy. The move paid off handsomely and the sight of the popular Spaniard being mobbed by his team-mates following his match-winning save was truly one to savour.

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